St. Johns County Man Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography in Nationwide Sextortion Case
JACKSONVILLE, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announced today that Lucas Michael Chansler (age 30, St. Johns) has pleaded guilty to nine counts of producing child pornography. On each of these counts, Chansler faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years, up to 30 years in federal prison, $250,000 in fines, and a potential life term of supervised release. Chansler has been in the custody of the United States Marshals Service since September 2, 2010.
According to court documents, beginning in or about 2007, and continuing until on or about January 8, 2010, Chansler used computers and interactive computer services to transmit threatening communications to several minor female victims located all across the United States. Chansler transmitted these threatening communications with the intent to extort things of value from the minors, including digital photographs and webcam videos of the minor female victims in various states of undress, exposing themselves and engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Chansler engaged in a pattern of extortion in which he would at first pretend to be a friend, acquaintance, or admirer of the minor victims on social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook. Chansler used more than 60 different online screen names to conceal his identity and location.
After gaining some measure of trust from a particular minor victim, Chansler would request that the minor victim engage in a live video chat session with him via the Internet. During this video chat session, Chansler would use a computer program to record the video session without the knowledge of the minor victim. Chansler would ask the minor victim to expose her breasts or genitalia during the session. Often Chansler would entice the minor victims to so expose themselves by showing them streaming video of a minor male exposing himself or engaging in masturbation. Unbeknownst to the minor victims, Chansler did not show himself during these webcam video sessions but rather would use sexually explicit videos of other males which he had collected. If a minor victim did expose herself to Chansler during a video chat session, this conduct would be recorded by Chansler. He then would send a copy or portion of the video recording to the minor victim. Chansler would then demand that the minor victim send him additional and more graphic sexually explicit digital still images or webcam video. Chansler would inform the minor victim that if she did not comply with his demand, he would injure the minor victim’s reputation by sending the sexually explicit images and/or videos to her friends or by posting the images and/or videos to a public website.
Some of the minor victims complied with Chansler’s demands, while others did not. With some of those who complied, Chansler carried on a continuing pattern of extortion by sending more threatening communications and demanding additional sexually explicit images and videos from the minors. On at least one occasion, Chansler was able to locate a minor victim who had established a new online persona in an effort to escape from Chansler. Chansler had previously coerced this minor to produce and transmit to him dozens of sexually explicit images of her over an extended period of time. Using communications routed through a proxy server in Brazil, Chansler reestablished contact with this minor victim and continued his attempts to extort sexually explicit images from her.
Using information received from the parents of one of Chansler’s minor victims and working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, FBI agents were able to identify Chansler and locate his residence in St. Johns County. On January 8, 2010, law enforcement agents executed a federal search warrant at Chansler’s residence.
During the execution of the search warrant, Chansler was interviewed and stated that that he used social networking sites to meet girls who ranged in age from 13 to 18 years old. He targeted underage girls because adult women were “too smart” to fall for his scheme. These girls would agree to video chat with Chansler on a particular video chat website. Chansler stated that he saved all files that he obtained from his victims in separate folders labeled with each victim’s name.
Subsequent forensic analysis of Chansler’s computer revealed that the computer contained two different hard disk drives, one of which contained images and videos of child pornography. This hard drive contained numerous folders characterized and labeled by the name of the minor victims. Many of the folders contained information specific to the particular victim, such as screen captures of the victim’s social networking webpages, written logs of online chats between the victim and Chansler, and pornographic webcam videos and/or digital photos. In several of the videos, victims are seen crying and pleading with Chansler not to force them to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The forensic analysis of Chansler’s hard disk drive revealed he had targeted approximately 350 different minor victims. Among these were 103 minor victims who have been positively identified. In total, Chansler’s computer media contained approximately 80,000 images and videos, many of which depicted what appeared to be post-pubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Over 3,000 videos were recovered, and at least 200 of these videos depicted child pornography.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, and numerous other state and local law enforcement agencies working in Internet Crimes Against Children (“ICAC”) task forces across the United States and Canada. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
It is another case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.